Electronic Drum Kits Roundup

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Beginner, amateur and pro drummers all share the same dilemma: no one, not even their closest family members and friends, wants to hear them banging away, loudly practicing their chops. Thankfully, these musicians have the option of using electronic drums, which allow them to play amazing-sounding kits in relative peace and quiet, day or night. Electronic drum kits have many other perks, like built-in metronomes and training tools that help you improve your timing skills and teach you new rhythms. The sound libraries in electronic drums allow percussionists to tap into unique tones and really explore new sonic territory.

In this roundup, we'll review several popular models and explain their differences, from entry-level units like the Yamaha DD-65, to full-blown systems like the Roland TD-9KX2. We’ve created a chart for each manufacturer that breaks down the differences between their products. It’s a quick way for you to find the drum kit that suits your needs best. Keep an eye out for drum pads and cymbals that have “multiple zones.” They enable you to trigger more than one sound simultaneously, such as a rim shot and a snare sound.

There are a couple of things that every model in this article has in common. They all have an auxiliary audio input, which is a jack that allows you to connect an MP3 or CD player, so you can play along with your favorite music. All electronic drum kits are compact, and take up less physical space than acoustic drums. Most models don’t have built-in speakers, so you’re going to need to an external amp or a pair of headphones to hear yourself. Most models also don’t include a kick drum pedal or a drum throne. Let’s kick this thing off… one, two, three, four! 

Alesis

The Alesis DM6 Session Kit features five drum pads (one of which is dual zone), three cymbals, kick and hi-hat pedals. The included DM6 Drum Module has 108 sounds, 40 built-in music tracks that you can play along with, and a USB port that’s compatible with Windows and Mac computers. If you own drum software like BFDToontrack or XLN Audio Addictive Drums, you can connect the DM6 directly to your computer through its USB port. The DM6 Kit sends MIDI notes to the computer to trigger the software, making it possible to play and record with vast libraries of sounds. The DM6 can also play instruments in iPad apps by connecting its USB port to an Apple iPad.

The Alesis DM6 USB Kit has the same dual zone snare pad and DM6 Drum Module as the DM6 Session Kit, but this model comes with the more responsive “ProPad” tom drums, kick pad and cymbals.

The Alesis DM10 Studio Kit comes with six RealHead drum pads (five of which are dual-zone), and the powerful DM10 drum module which packs over 1000 sounds. The RealHead drum pads feature Mylar drum heads for an authentic feel. The DM10 module has a wide range of acoustic and electronic drum sounds, the ability to load sounds through its USB port, and it can trigger MIDI instruments via USB. You can record your performances, connect to an iPad (the iPad Camera Connection Kit is required), and play along with built-in music tracks.

If you prefer drums that are larger than 8" in diameter, check out the Alesis DM10 X Kit. It features the same DM10 sound module as the DM10 Studio kit, but it comes with three larger 12" and two 10" RealHead pads, and larger cymbals as well. The included chrome-plated XRack stand features four posts for more stability.

  Single-Zone Pads Multi-Zone Pads Module / Number of Sounds Special Feature Kick-Drum Pedal
DM6 Session Kit 3 x Pro Pads 1 x 8” DMPad snare DM6, 108 Compatible with iPad apps Included
3 x  Pro Pad cymbals
1 x Kick Pad
DM6 USB Kit 3 x DM Pads 1 x 8” DMPad snare DM6, 108 Upgraded pads, compatible with iPad apps Not included
3 x DM Cymbals
1 x Kick Pad
DM10 Studio Kit 1 x Kick Pad 4 x 8” RealHead Pads DM10, 1047 Load new sound sets through USB, top panel mixer Not included
4 x Cymbal Pads 1 x 10” RealHead Pad
DM10 X Kit 1 x RealHead Kick Pad 3 x 12” RealHead Pads

DM10, 1047

Load new sound sets through USB, top panel mixer Not included
2 x 14” Crashes 2 x 10” RealHead Pads
1 x 16” Ride
1 x 12” Hi-Hat

Roland

The Roland HD-1 features a mesh-head snare drum pad, which makes a stick rebound more naturally, and also emits the least amount of acoustic noise. It has 10 drum kits, with everything from a sweet acoustic jazz kit, to electronic drums, to a heavy metal kit with double-bass drums. You should also consider picking up the TDM-1 Secure Performance Mat, a nylon floor covering that's designed to fit an HD-1. It reduces vibration noise and protects your flooring.

The Roland HPD-10 HANDSONIC was designed to be played with your bare hands, and it’s loaded with instruments like tablas, cajons, steel drums, sound effects, orchestral sounds and full acoustic drum sets. There are 400 sounds built in and you play them with its 10 velocity- and pressure-sensitive pads. You can use the pressure sensitivity to bend the pitch of a note, as you would on a traditional hand drum. A D-Beam controller is built in, which allows you to liven up your rhythms with even more sounds, such as vibra-slaps and bar chimes. A dynamic metronome is built in. Add a BC-HPD-10 custom sized carrying bag to your cart and you'll have everything you need to use your space bongo on the go.

The Roland SPD-30 Octapad isn’t a drum kit; it’s an all-in-one percussion instrument with eight trigger pads. It has 50 drum kits with more than 600 built-in sounds. There are 30 effects, EQs, ambience, pitch, muffling and tone controls. Phrase looping is built in, and you can add four more trigger pads (including a hi-hat controller), so you can transform it into a full drum set. With USB and MIDI connectivity, the SPD-30 can be used to trigger other devices. B&H sells a custom Octapad SPD-30 Value Bundle that includes a pair of studio headphones, the PSD10 Pad Stand, a Boss FS-5U footswitch and a pair of wood drum sticks.

The Roland SPD-SX is also an all-in-one percussion instrument, but this one has nine trigger pads, each of which has an LED to let you know its status, and there are illuminated divider lines between the pads so you can clearly see them on a dimly lit stage. It has 2GB of internal memory, and two audio inputs (line and mic), so you can sample sounds directly into the device. You can add two more drum pads and a footswitch to the unit. It has MIDI and USB ports, three built-in effects units that can be tweaked in real time with hardware knobs and a high-contrast LCD screen.

The Roland TD-4K2 is the most affordable kit in the acclaimed V-Compact Series of electronic drums. It features 25 authentic sounding drum kits, a special built-in training coach with recording and playback, and the dual-zone PDX-8 10" mesh snare pad. It’s also the first kit in this article to feature a dual-zone cymbal pad. The 12" Roland CY-8 lets you to trigger different sounds on the bow and the edge, making it an excellent crash cymbal.

When you step up to the Roland TD-4KX2, you get dual-zone drum pads across the board (excluding the kick pad, where dual-zone isn’t necessary), and you get a 12" dual zone crash cymbal and an essential 16" three-zone ride, with bell, bow and edge triggers. Being able to alternate between the bell and bow of a ride cymbal is a fundamentally important technique in percussion. This kit comes with the TD-4 sound module, which features 25 drum kits, the training coach and recording/playback abilites.

The Roland TD-9KX2 features the advanced TD-9 drum module; all mesh dual zone drum pads and the incredibly accurate dual zone VH-11 hi-hat. The hi-hat does an outstanding job of mimicking the action and playability of a real hi-hat cymbal. Like a real hi-hat, the VH-11 has two separate parts that sit in a real hi-hat stand. When you buy this kit at B&H, you get a complimentary chain-driven kick pedal, a pair of maple drum sticks and a drum throne. 

  Single-Zone Pads Multi-Zone Pads Module / Number of Drum Kits Special Feature Kick-Drum pedal
HD-1 3 x drum pads None 10 drum kits Mesh snare head Included
3 x cymbal pads
1 x kick pad
SPD-30 8 drum pads None 50 drum kits Built-in looping Not included
HPD-10 10 drum pads None 64 drum kits D-Beam controller Not included
SPD-SX 9 drum pads None 100 drum kits Illuminated divider lines Not included
TD-4K2 3 x drum pads 1 x 10” pad, 1 x 12” cymbal TD-4, 25 drum kits Built-in training coach, cloth coated kick pad, recording feature Not included
2 x cymbal pads
1 x kick pad
TD-4KX2 1 x kick pad 2 x 8” pads TD-4, 25 drum kits Built-in training coach, cloth coated kick pad, recording feature Not included
2 x 10” pads
1 x 12” crash
1 x 3-zone ride
TD-9KX2 1 x kick pad 1 x 10” pad TD-9, 50 drum kits Realistic VH-11 hi-hat Included (at B&H)
3 x 8” pads
1 x VH-11 hi-hat
1 x 12” crash
1 x 3-zone ride

Yamaha

The Yamaha DD-45 is an affordable way to get into percussion. It’s an all-in-one percussion instrument (as opposed to being a modular drum kit). There are four touch-sensitive pads and an impressive 50 drum kits and 50 built-in songs with which you can practice. It features an input to add an external foot pedal (the Yamaha FC4 or FC5) to control the kick drum. There is a built-in speaker and the unit can run on six AA batteries. A pair of drumsticks and the AC power adapter are both included.

The Yamaha DD-65 is an all-in-one percussion instrument with eight pads, 50 built-in drum sounds and internal songs you can play along with, and it can be mounted on a snare stand (such as the Yamaha SS662). You can trigger sound modules and software with its MIDI and USB ports. Two foot pedals are included to control the kick drum and the hi-hat cymbal, and you can easily program both pedals to be kick drums. The pedals can be upgraded to the Yamaha HH65 hi-hat pedal, and you can add the KP65 kick pad and use the kick drum pedal of your choice. A hand-percussion mode changes the sensitivity of the pads to react to your fingers instead of sticks, so you can practice different drumming styles.

The Yamaha DTX500K is a complete drum kit that you can expand with four additional pad inputs. It includes a real Yamaha kick pedal that can be used on an acoustic drum set, and an expressive hi-hat pedal that can be positioned anywhere. Yamaha is well known for being a manufacturer of high quality acoustic drums, so you can bet that the included DTX500 sound module is loaded with Yamaha’s rich-sounding percussion samples. Plus, you can tweak your tones with built-in digital effects and EQ.  

The Yamaha DTX-Multi12 is an all-in-one percussion instrument with 12 thick rubber pads. There are more than1,200 built-in sounds with 50 complete drum kits, and you can import your own sounds into its internal memory. It has MIDI ports, a footswitch input, a hi-hat controller input, five extra pad inputs and two USB ports. One USB port is for connecting it to a computer to transfer files. The other is for connecting a jump drive to load your own samples. Internal effects can be applied on a pad-by-pad basis. A recorder and metronome allows you to create and quantize your own patterns and assign them to pads. A stand mount and stand are available separately.

The Yamaha DTX520K Kit features the DTX500 sound module, which is loaded with realistic oak, maple, beech and birch drum sounds, and an impressive array of multi-zone drum and cymbal pads. It includes a three-zone XP80 DTX-PAD snare, three-zone crash and ride cymbals, and a two-zone hi-hat. There are eight pads and cymbals in total, which combines to recreate a natural and expressive drumming experience. This B&H kit is completed with the RS500 electronic drum rack, a sturdy support system that ships pre-assembled.

The Yamaha DTX530K shares many of the same qualities of the DTX520K (the three-zone, 8" XP80 DTX-PAD snare, the three-zone crash and ride cymbals, the DTX500 sound module and the RS500 drum rack), but where they differ is the hi-hat. The DTX530K comes with a real Yamaha hi-hat stand. You mount the included two-zone hi-hat cymbal pads onto the hi-hat stand the same way you would mount traditional hi-hat cymbals. You play them the same way too, making the transition between electric and acoustic drums seamless. 

The Yamaha DTX560K fully embraces realistic playing action by supplying you with advanced DTX-PADs for the snare and all of the tom drums. The snare is the three-zone XP80, and the three toms are the single-zone XP70. Like the DTX530K, the DTX560K includes a real hi-hat stand and the two-zone hi-hat cymbal pads, the three-zone crash and ride cymbal pads, and the DTX500 sound module.

The Yamaha DTX700K features the same drum and cymbal pads and hardware as the DTX560K. The upgrade here is the DTX700 sound module. It features 1,268 sampled drum sounds, and allows you to customize the sounds to your liking. It even includes idiosyncratic drum characteristics, like snare buzz and tom drum resonance for an ultra-realistic sound. You can import new sounds into the module with a dedicated “device” USB port, and connect to a computer with a second dedicated “host” USB port.

  Single-Zone Pads Multi-Zone Pads Module / Number of Sounds Special Feature Kick-Drum Pedal
DD-45 4 x pads None 50 drum kits Built-in speaker Not included
DD-65 12 x pads None 50 drum kits Two foot-pedal inputs Not included
DTX500K 4 x drum pads, 3 x cymbal pads, 1 x kick Pad None DTX500, 50 drum kits Add up to four more pads Included
DTX-Multi12 12 x pads None 50 drum kits Apply effects to specific pads Not included
DTX520K 3 x drum pads, 1 x kick pad 1 x 3-zone pad, 1 x 2-zone hi-hat, 2 x 3-zone cymbals DTX500, 50 drum kits Includes 3-zone ride and crash cymbals Not included
DTX530K 3 x drum pads, 1 x kick pad 1 x 3-zone pad, 1 x 2-zone hi-hat, 2 x 3-zone cymbals DTX500, 50 drum kits A real hi-hat stand is included Not included
DTX560K 3 x DTX-PAD style pads, 1 x kick pad 1 x 3-zone pad, 1 x 2-zone hi-hat, 2 x 3-zone cymbals DTX500, 50 drum kits A real hi-hat stand and DTX-PAD style tom drums included Not included
DTX700K 3 x DTX-PAD style pads, 1 x kick pad 1 x 3-zone pad, 1 x 2-zone hi-hat, 2 x 3-zone cymbals DTX700, 50 drum kits Dual USB ports for computer connection and transferring data Not included

Korg

Both the Korg Wavedrum Mini and the full-blown Wavedrum (described below) share a unique technology. When you strike them, the sound of their physical drum head is picked up by sensors. The audio from the drum head is blended with a sampled sound, so every time you hit it, a unique sound is created. You can use real brushes and your bare hands and hear the Wavedrum respond to them. The Wavedrum Mini has a really unique external sensor clip that you can attach to anything (your shoe, a paper cup, etc.) and play it like a musical instrument. The Mini also has built-in looping/layering, a recorder and rhythms.   

The Korg Wavedrum triggers separate sounds on its head and rim. The rim features a bumpy strip so it will react to the vibrations when you drag a stick across it. There are melodic instrument sounds like sitars that enable you to control their pitch with velocity. The Wavedrum has 200 instrument sounds in all, plus 100 built-in loops. If you wear out the head, you can easily replace it with any standard 10" drum head. When it's time to take your show on the road, you can pick up the separately available Wavedrum Soft Case and the height adjustable Wavedrum Stand.

  Single-Zone Pads Multi-Zone Pads  Module / Number of Sounds Special Feature Kick-Drum Pedal
Wavedrum Mini 1 x Sensor pad, 1 x Sensor clip None 100 sounds, 100 rhythm patterns Sensor clip turns anything into an instrument Not included
Wavedrum None 1 x 2-zone 200 sounds, 50 loops Reacts to sticks, brushes and hands Not included

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you have any questions about electronic drum kits, we encourage you to submit them in the Comments section below.

Add new comment

Are any of the Alesis kits expandable? My ideal drum kit would be a 5-piece with 2 crashes, a ride, and hi-hats, but the complete kits here generally have 1 crash.  Would I be able to pick up a single crash trigger and add it on?

Hello -

The Alesis drum kits offered at B&H are not expandable.  Each kit is designed to be complete.  Choose the kit that offers the components closest to your desired set-up.   A  custom configuration could be achieved by assembling the desired components separately - but the bottom line cost would be higher than the kits we presently offer.

Hi I am in the process of deciding which electronic set to buy,I want it to sound realistic and feel as realistic as is possible without spending 4000 dollars.In general is Roland or Yamaha known to have better electronic sets?For some reason I feel like Roland is better but this is based on just that,a feeling.I don't want to purchase a kit and then realize it is not good enough and be stuck with it.I am a singer/guitarist/bassist,pianist,songwriter and I record,mix and master my own material.I have played the drums but currently do not have a kit to play.I want to have one good enough to record some,I may also at some point try joining a band and playing drums for it,in the indie-rock,punk rock genre.,Any advice would be greatly appreciated

Hello Stephen -

This decision will weigh heavily on personal taste, preference, and "feel". This is typical of any musical instrument purchase where subjectivity is required.  Both Yamaha and Roland offer quality kits with excellent reputations for service and support.  If you live anywhere NYC - stop by our store to get some "hands-on" before purchasing. 

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hi

I wonder if ALESIS drum components (pads) can be used on different brand of modules, like for ex. Roland, Yamaha or Medeli(HK brand) modules?

Thanks

Hi Samuel -

Modules are designed for their corresponding brand drum-kits and cannot be interchanged with different brand components.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Question 1:

I want to play some tones or sounds which is available in computer through SPD 30 while hitting pad.

1. Pls let me know the suitable software.

2. Can you please tell me the steps by steps to make the connectivity between spd 30 and software ?

a. What are things i need to change in software
b. what are thing i need to change in spd30
c. Cable connection

3. Do we need to connect MIDI IN or MIDIOUT in SPD 30 while connecting to Computer ?

I am searching lot of things in google. I couldnot get valuable information. Pls help me to resolve this.

Thanks,
Arulappan

Hi Arul -

You can connect the OCTAPAD SPD-30 from Roland via USB to share MIDI information with your computer and whatever DAW you are using. You may elect to also a USB interface like this one that will include excellent software as well:

The Scarlett 2i4 from Focusrite is a two input/four output USB audio interface featuring two Focusrite pre-amps with phantom power and 10 dB pads. USB bus powered and housed in a compact anodized aluminum unibody chassis makes the unit a perfect choice for musicians and digital DJs.

Compatible with both Mac and Windows based computers, the interface features Neutrik combo inputs that accept microphones, line sources, and instrument levels. Four RCA outputs, and a headphone output provide the digital performer and laptop DJ with convenient connectivity.

Direct monitoring is available to avoid latency during recording, and signal halos surrounding the gain knobs provide visual feedback of proper input levels. MIDI I/O with activity indicators allows for connecting synthesizer or other MIDI related modules. A comprehensive selection of crossplatform software is included.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com